FUTURE TIME TRAVELLER - Transforming career guidance on future skills, jobs and career prospects of Generation Z through a game based virtual reality platform

Author: CIAPE and BFE
Major policy implications

1. Establish a multi-stakeholder approach and a shared responsibility towards the fulfilment of future-looking career guidance needs of the Generation Z

The urgency of a paradigm shift from a silo to a systemic approach is hot on the skills and jobs’ discourse.
The Future calls for a new paradigm for young people, educators and leaders. It is not enough to show children HOW the world is changing. They need to understand WHY it is changing, WHAT kind of challenges and jobs it will bring, what type of SKILLS it will require. Career guidance services need to transform to GUIDANCE TO THE FUTURE and guidance and education policy – to LEADERSHIP FOR THE FUTURE.
However, a supporting and multiple ecosystem is an indispensable prerequisite towards the achievement of this result, and much still needs to be done when it comes to the homogenization of priorities and policy strategies of the single actors involved – namely policy makers, institutions, teachers and career experts, employers, but also families, individuals and the civil society as a whole.
In a more and more interconnected and interdependent world – as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” we are living in is – a variety of actors must be aware that changes to the education system often occur at a slower pace than those on the labour market, and that the education system needs to communicate better with the labour market to contribute to social equity and avoid generating skills gaps which contribute to increasing unemployment rates.

The FUTURE project collected significant acceptance of the project from all target groups, thus confirming the relevance of the theme for multiple and diverse stakeholders. The interdependence between career guidance services and public policies has also emerged. In particular, the project confirms how the organisation, management and delivery of adequate career guidance services can help to advance some key public policy objectives. In particular, at the national level within the 7 countries covered, the project underlined how career guidance services can assist public and private organizations – thus ultimately Governments – to advance lifelong learning goals, and how career guidance can help in the implementation of active labour market policies through the promotion of a structured dialogue between the education system and the labour market, based on the awareness of the major socio-economic influences and trends affecting the European region and the whole world.

The adequate consideration of the single actors’ specific potential in terms of socio-economic impact is a key element for the improvement and growth of the labour market value chain, leading to more and better jobs’ creation. This implies to shift away from an approach that focuses only upon immediate educational and occupational choices, towards a broader approach that also tries to develop career self-management skills: for example, the ability to make effective career decisions and to implement them, starting from reliable facts and credible sources of information. Here some lessons learned it is worth to emphasize on:

Career guidance practitioners are specialists intended to assist people, from a very early age, to make educational, training and occupational choices and to manage their careers. Career guidance helps people to reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications and abilities. It helps them to understand the labour market and education systems, and to relate this to what they know about themselves. In its contemporary forms, career guidance draws upon a number of disciplines: psychology, education, sociology, and labour economics. Career guidance experts should be thus more aware about their holistic mission towards EU’s prosperity. In order to do so, their information and approaches need to be constantly updated about the labour market trends and forecasts about emerging jobs and skills, so to raise youth awareness about the risks of choosing traditional and unsecure jobs. In particular, there is an urgency to upgrade the competences related to the development and application of innovative technologies and methods and to adapt the communication methods to meet the needs of clients having special needs and/or fewer opportunities, too.

Policy-makers expect career guidance to contribute to a number of labour market policy objectives (employment rate, labour mobility etc.). It is difficult to see how career guidance systems such as these can operate in the absence of highly developed systems of information and advice. It is thus important that educational and occupational information are integrated and open-source, in a lifelong learning perspective. It is also necessary to ensure that a strong labour market perspective is included in schools’ career guidance programmes. Adequate funding shall be foreseen in order to boost future-looking career guidance initiatives, in line with the new emerging realities.

Young people should be encouraged to catch those initiatives and develop curiosity, keeping an eye on the socio-economic trends through the use of credible sources of information. Youth should be stimulated in this sense from a very early age, since the pre-school phase, leveraging on the potential of non-formal and informal education. Much needs to be done in this sense, as revealed by the FUTURE field research conducted among young people from 7 EU countries.

88% of the young people who took part in the survey say it is important for them to be informed about the jobs of the future and the changes in the world of work, but half of them currently don’t learn about them at school or informally. Only 1/3 of young people say they are aware of the labour market trends and credible sources of information. In the same time, 58% feel informed or rather informed about future jobs, which is not the fact according to the majority of career practitioners and experts.
The survey confirms the importance of a wide spectrum of competences which young people need to possess, in order to be prepared for their future careers. Knowledge of labour market trends, self-awareness, flexibility and openness to change are evaluated as the most important career skills for the future, all participants in the survey agree. Career planning and decision making skills are also very important for all groups. More than 90% of all respondents stress on the significance of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship spirit. Career guidance practitioners highlight positive attitude and analytical skills as crucial, while they are slightly less important.
Generation Z will be the backbone of the 4th industrial revolution. In this highly dynamic, competitive, diverse, and still more automated working environment, they need to develop and demonstrate a wide spectrum of competences and knowledge. A big part of this generation will be self-employed or part of the gig-economy, they will need to adapt to the changing job realities and technologies and to design their own new types of jobs. For this, they need far wider skill set than those produced by the traditional education systems. So the main message and challenge is one to the societies, which have to rethink their vision about education and training as a whole and equip citizens from all ages, but especially those who are expected to be the most productive, active, competitive, entrepreneurial and innovative part of the economy. Young people have to be exposed to more hands-on experience, which will allow them to practice the skills they will need the most. Moreover, the topics related to the job transformations, developments of employment and labour market, career skills, etc. are not addressed and young people are not familiar with their future.

Finally, the society as a whole is requested to equip citizens, especially those who are expected to be the most active and innovative part of the economy, and provide them with more practical experiences, enhancing autonomy and critical-thinking among the others. Also, all relevant actors should actively back a cultural shift (through projects, initiatives, tools and open information-sharing) so to go beyond traditional educational models/techniques and obsolescent career guidance approaches.

2. Valorise the opportunities of co-transforming European career guidance service through the use of innovative technologies such as virtual worlds

Holistic career guidance approaches try to teach (young) people to plan and make decisions about work and learning. Career guidance makes information about the labour market and about educational opportunities more accessible by organising it, systematising it, and making it available when, where (schools and tertiary institutions, public employment services, private guidance providers, enterprises, community and private settings) and how people need it. In this sense, a pre-requisite for rethinking the Generation Z’s career guidance is the awareness around the complexity and speed of technological and digital advancements.

Young people are more willing to explore ready-to-use information, online tools and guidance methods, however there is still a gap in provision of quality tools, which are informative and of adequate educational content. Instead, the existing online content is not adapted for the agile young learners, and traditional methods in counselling services still prevail.
As for the FUTURE project approach, the targets involved really appreciated its innovative point of view, the practical learning methods, the relevant information collected and the engaging initiatives presented (e.g. the 3D virtual reality platform for career guidance).

In general terms, career practitioners should constantly review their own knowledge and the tools they use in order to deliver guidance which is appropriate for the reality of the contemporary labour market. The scope of support material and resources need to be digitalised and constantly reviewed, in order to make sure they remain impactful for younger generations. This must be developed in parallel with the career guidance practitioners’ relevant skills: still too often, their ability to apply digital tools is either fair or needing improvement. Also, their knowledge of labour market trends, emerging jobs and skills demands should be further developed in some cases to fit the digital generations’ needs.
This calls for increase in the provision of relevant and up-to-date continuous education and training, in order to ensure the quality of services is adequate to young people needs and market realities.
The features of virtual worlds make them an effective education tool as they enable engagement with students via more comprehensive learning activities. In particular, virtual worlds can provide learners with a full understanding of a situation using immersive 3D experiences which allow the learner to freely wander through the learning environment. Through this, they can explore the virtual world, find a purpose, act, make mistakes, collaborate and communicate with other learners and this explains the growing interest in learning and teaching within 3D virtual worlds from a large number of schools and universities. Across the literature on virtual worlds, the conclusions are that these worlds can enhance intrinsic motivation, stimulate excellence in learning outcomes, and promote industry/research application. In addition to education in general, virtual worlds can have an important impact on the improvement of career management skills, equipping the individual with transversal (key) competences to better manage and develop his/her potential in education, work and life in complex situations.
There is a vast need to develop and support career guidance innovation through various initiatives and projects, which produce practical online tools, mobile and online apps, information platforms, etc. in order to respond to the demand of younger generations for more up-to-date approach.
The FUTURE project and its 3D virtual reality platform for Generation Z’s career guidance is a great example of how digital technologies fit into the needs of young people and career guidance professionals. It is a digital platform providing information from credible sources and a readymade instrument, including a detailed methodology, that can be used for working with young people in different formal and informal learning environments. This flexibility revealed to be an added value for the wide usability of the tool e.g. to be integrated in individual training/counselling sessions, class activities, group research projects about the jobs and labour market in the future, in a view to amplify the learning process. Within a variety of learning contexts, its format proved to give stimulus to participants and learners to discuss specific topics, be assigned gamified learning tasks, implement creative ideas with or without the support of a guide (parents, teacher, coach etc.).

3. Make best practices and tools developed through public funds openly available through national and European initiatives and platforms

Among the final FUTURE project activities, the project partners launched two contests taking place across 7 partner countries and European-wide in a view to stimulate and collect ideas of future jobs, tools and best practices from career guidance practitioners and young people.
A consortium of three representatives in each partner country from organizations in the field of career guidance, education, labour market and the media judged and selected a set of 38 best practices and tools for innovative career guidance. These cover a range of approaches and methodologies, as they demonstrate the various different ways that offline and digital tools are allowing careers practitioners to find new and innovative ways to work with young people on their future career goals and aspirations.

FUTURE has clearly shown that necessary and important data sets are sometimes dispersed among diverse institutions and organizations and that access to innovation and inspiration in career guidance could be for this reason generally difficult. This constitutes an impediment to the transferability, comparability and update of relevant information, which is essential for planning new national or cross-border approaches and innovative policies. To solve this issue, it would be useful to create a European online one-stop-shop containing inspiring practices and tools. This data should be easily and openly accessible in order to highlight gaps to be improved through dedicated resources. European projects producing such information (tools, approaches, methodologies), such as FUTURE, should be entitled to populate the database with data following standardised and harmonised formats. Finally, this will generally stimulate the creation of new information.